Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||F. Gary Gray|
|Music by||Graeme Revell|
|Edited by||Christian Wagner|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$88 million|
The Negotiator is a 1998 American action thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray. It stars Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey as two expert hostage negotiators and Chicago police lieutenants. The film was released in the United States on July 29, 1998, receiving generally positive reviews from critics and grossing $88 million worldwide.
Lieutenant Danny Roman, a top hostage negotiator for the Chicago Police Department, is told by his partner, Nate Roenick, that according to an informant whom he refuses to name, members of their own unit are embezzling large amounts of money from the department's disability fund, for which Roman is a board member. Roenick tells Roman that his informant hasn't told Internal Affairs because he thinks they might be involved as well. When Roman goes for another meeting, he finds Roenick dead seconds before other police arrive, pinning Roman as the prime suspect.
Matters become worse for Roman when IAD investigator Terence Niebaum, whom Roenick's informant suspected of involvement in the embezzlement, is assigned to investigate the murder. After the gun that killed Roenick is linked to a case Roman had worked on, Niebaum and other investigators search the Roman house and discover papers for an offshore bank account with a deposit equal to one of the amounts of money embezzled. Roman is forced to surrender his gun and badge, and his colleagues are skeptical of his protests of innocence. With embezzlement and homicide charges pending, Roman storms into Niebaum's office and demands answers about who set him up. When Niebaum refuses to answer, Roman takes Niebaum, his administrative assistant Maggie, police commander and Roman's friend Grant Frost and weak-willed con man Rudy Timmons as hostages.
With the building evacuated and placed under siege by his own CPD unit and the FBI, Roman issues his conditions: locating Roenick's informant and killer and summoning lieutenant Chris Sabian, the city's other top negotiator. Roman believes he can trust Sabian, because he talks for as long as possible, sees tactical action as a last resort, and being from another precinct eliminates him as a suspect in the disability fund scheme. Sabian clashes with Roman's Precinct, particularly commander Adam Beck, but is given temporary command of the unit after they hastily attempt a breach that goes awry, resulting in SWAT officers Scott and Markus becoming Roman's hostages, believing he has killed Scott.
Roman trades Frost to Sabian in exchange for restoring the building's electricity, having been turned off after the hostage execution. With help from Rudy and Maggie, Roman accesses Niebaum's computer and pieces together the scheme; corrupt officers submitted false disability claims that were processed by an unknown insider on the disability fund's board. He also discovers recordings of wiretaps, including a conversation that suggests Roenick was meeting his informant before he was killed. Sabian, using the information Roman provided, claims to have located Roenick's informant in a bid to get Roman to release the hostages. Roman realizes Sabian is bluffing when Niebaum's files reveal Roenick himself was the IAD informant.
When Roman threatens to expose Niebaum in his office's open window, leaving him vulnerable to sniper fire, Niebaum admits that Roenick gave him wiretaps, implicating three of Roman's squad mates (Hellman, Allen and Argento) in the embezzlement scheme. When Niebaum confronted the guilty officers, he received a bribe from them to cover up their crimes. They offered Roenick the same money, but he refused to take it, resulting in his death. Niebaum says he doesn't know who the ringleader is, but that he has the taps corroborating the three officers' guilt. The same corrupt officers have secretly entered the room via the air vents under the pretext of being part of a team to take Roman out in case he started killing hostages; upon hearing Niebaum's confession, they open fire and kill Niebaum before he can reveal where he has hidden the wiretaps. Roman single-handedly fends them and the rest of his squad off, using the flashbangs he seized from the two officers in the previous failed breach.
Believing that Sabian and the police can't resolve the situation, the FBI assume jurisdiction over the operation, cease negotiations, relieve Sabian of his command, and order a full breach. As Roman prepares for his eventual arrest, Maggie tells him that Niebaum also worked at his house and could have kept Roenick's wiretaps there. Sabian confronts Roman to warn him about the breach, and Roman reveals that the corrupt officers murdered Niebaum and that Scott is still alive and gagged with duct tape. Sabian begins to believe in Roman's innocence and gives him a chance to prove his case: while the FBI and SWAT raid the building and rescue the hostages, Roman disguises himself as a SWAT member and escapes through the vents.
Roman and Sabian proceed to Niebaum's house, but they can't find the wiretaps. The police arrive and the corrupt officers enter the house, but they back off as Frost enters and tries to talk Roman down. Sabian observes Frost discreetly locking the front door and taking one of the loaded guns, and realizes that Frost is the ringleader of the conspiracy, the insider on the disability fund's board and Roenick's killer. In front of Frost, Sabian seemingly kills Roman and offers to destroy the evidence they have uncovered in return for a cut of Frost's take. Frost agrees and effectively makes a full admission to his and the other three officers' crimes. When Frost exits the house, he discovers that Sabian only wounded Roman, who used a police radio microphone to broadcast his confession to the police surrounding the area. Humiliated, Frost attempts to commit suicide, only to be shot in the shoulder by Beck and arrested along with the other corrupt officers. As Roman is loaded into an ambulance, Sabian gives his badge to him and departs.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Lieutenant Danny Roman
- Kevin Spacey as Lieutenant Chris Sabian
- David Morse as Adam Beck
- Ron Rifkin as Chief Grant Frost
- John Spencer as Chief Al Travis
- J. T. Walsh as Terence Niebaum
- Siobhan Fallon as Maggie
- Paul Giamatti as Rudy
- Regina Taylor as Karen Roman
- Bruce Beatty as Markus
- Michael Cudlitz as Palermo
- Carlos Gómez as Eagle
- Tim Kelleher as Argento
- Dean Norris as Scott
- Nestor Serrano as Hellman
- Doug Spinuzza as Tonray
- Leonard Thomas as Allen
- Stephen Lee as Farley
- Robert David Hall as Cale Wangro
In addition, Paul Guilfoyle appears in the uncredited role of Nate Roenick, Danny Roman‘s partner, whose murder precipitates the action of the film.
The film is dedicated to J. T. Walsh, who died several months before the film's release.
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The Negotiator made $10.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing first at the box office. It went on to finish with a worldwide gross of $88 million. Warner Bros. spent $40.3 million promoting the film, and lost an estimated $13 million after all revenues and expenses were factored together.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 57 reviews, and an average rating of 6.77/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Negotiator's battle of wits doesn't wholly justify its excessive length, but confident direction by F. Gary Gray and formidable performances makes this a situation audiences won't mind being hostage to." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score 62 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Emanuel Levy of Variety wrote: "Teaming for the first time Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, arguably the two best actors of their generation, in perfectly fitting roles is a shrewd move and the best element of this fact-inspired but overwrought thriller." Roger Ebert, in his Chicago Sun-Times review, calls The Negotiator "a triumph of style over story, and of acting over characters...Much of the movie simply consists of closeups of the two of them talking, but it's not simply dialogue because the actors make it more—invest it with conviction and urgency..."
Mick LaSalle, in his less-than-enthusiastic review for the San Francisco Chronicle, had the most praise for Spacey's performance: "Kevin Spacey is the main reason to see The Negotiator...Spacey's special gift is his ability to make sanity look radiant...In The Negotiator, as in L.A. Confidential, he gives us a man uniquely able to accept, face and deal with the truth."
|Saturn Award||Best Action or Adventure Film||David Hoberman & Arnon Milchan||Nominated|
|American Black Film Festival||Black Film Award for Best Film||Won|
|Black Film Award for Best Director||F. Gary Gray||Won|
|Black Film Award for Best Actor||Samuel L. Jackson||Nominated|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Award||Favorite Actor - Action/Adventure||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
- Jay Epstein, Edward (August 5, 2005). "Hollywood's Profits, Demystified". Slate. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
- Police Official Seized As Hostage in Missouri. New York Times (1988-09-04). Retrieved on 2013-11-17.
- "The Negotiator (1998)". The Numbers. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
- The Negotiator at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Negotiator at Metacritic
- "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Negotiator" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
- Ebert, Roger (July 29, 1998). "THE NEGOTIATOR". Chicago Sun-Times. RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
- LaSalle, Mick (July 29, 1998). "Spacey, Jackson Negotiate A Fun Action-Drama Flick". San Francisco Chronicle. SFGate.com. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
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